Did you see TNT’s reality series “Inside Job,” broadcast March 27, 2014 (Season 1, Episode 4), featuring Abbyson Living, the supplier of exquisite home and outdoor furnishings? Did you have a chance to see the exceptional and inspired work environment created by the Rafieha brothers, who took their father’s vision of international furniture manufacturing and delivery to new heights in e-commerce and business-to-business (B2B) relationships?
Abbyson Living President Yavar Rafieha shared, in an exclusive interview for examiner.com, how it was he and his brothers came to need the process for which TNT’s “Inside Job” was a perfect match. “We were seeking a new Brand Manager for our company,” said Yavar, “and the experience offered by ‘Inside Job’ was the perfect opportunity to see multiple candidates using their skills in an exercise that was specifically relevant to our needs.”
If you’re expecting to click on to http://www.Abbyson.com and purchase furniture, that’s not how their business works. In fact, if you’re an individual customer, you can look but you cannot order. Where you will be able to get their beautiful furnishings is online, through one of their many resellers, which include Neiman-Marcus, Overstock.com, Costco and Wayfair.com. There’s something for every price point and every budget. How did it come to be that Abbyson Living, quietly set back in California’s San Fernando Valley, exploded onto the national scene?
How Abbyson Living developed its international presence and industry distinction is a story that begins, as many good news stories do, with a father’s love for his family— a dream, and a substantial amount of hard work. Abby Rafieha had three good reasons as inspiration: his sons, Yavar, Doddy, and Rodd. As the senior Rafieha studied for his Ph.D. in economics in Houston, Texas, his mind was on creating his own business and his international background and acquired academic knowledge proved the perfect combination to begin his career. But first Abby traveled, “across Europe and Asia. Attracted and inspired by the rich and colorful cultures he encountered, he fell in love with functional art and artistic design.”
Ultimately it was the culture and design he found in Tibet that inspired the senior Rafieha to create the Abbyson Corporation. Abby’s first personnel “find” was his firstborn son, Houston-born Yavar, but first Abby had to wait until he discovered his actual career path. “I always thought I was going to be a lawyer one day,” said Yavar. “I liked watching all the courtroom scenes on TV and thought that’s what I would do. But I changed my mind.”
“When I was 16, I began traveling with my father on business trips. We went all over Asia and Europe. I sat in meetings with him, watching how he negotiated business deals, and set up manufacturing,” said Yavar. “Integrity was extremely important to him, in his dealings with people, and he took great pride in design and quality, which I saw on those trips.”
It made young Yavar so proud to watch his father in action; it seemed only natural that he wanted to follow his father’s path. But, he says, “Our father never really groomed us into taking over and getting involved with our career decisions. He never forced that on us.” However, “when I saw his products being delivered and how he would get such tremendous responses from his customers, I knew that this was where I wanted to be.”
Time passed and the business grew, on the ground, simply by “identifying, developing, and acquiring high quality products and selling them at a reasonable price, featuring items you would want in your own home.” Yavar said, “The joy is still there, for all of us. Last week I was at an event where someone I’d not met before came up to me and said, “Oh, I just bought one of your couches! Can’t believe I’m able to tell you in person how great it is!” You sometimes forget how great feedback is,” Yavar said, “when we have 5,000 shipments (not pieces, but full shipments) per month.”
Before you watch the program online, on demand, let’s establish one fact to prevent any misconception. In case you were wondering, the Rafieha brothers didn’t just fall into the business. Yavar, Doddy and Rodd are three of the most intelligent, cultured, and well-traveled young executives, who work more hours each week than their employees. Not one silver spoon here, except in the correct place on any fine dining table, as they travel the world as part of high-profile events where their furniture designs are seen. One visit to their website will show you all of the places where their work is prized and valued.
Each of the brothers began their career paths strictly by choice, not by expectation, and each of them is equally distinguished and schooled in the areas for which they’re responsible at Abbyson Living. This is the company that the three brothers formed together in 2008, a natural outgrowth of the company their father, Abby, began. Today, Abby serves as Chairman, Founder and Special Advisor, and his input is both sought and welcome, but he’s equally confident that his sons are doing tremendously of their own accord.
Abbyson Living President, Yavar, earned his B.S. degree (with honors) from Cal State—Northridge with a double major in business administration and political science. He is also multicertified in martial arts, and if that’s not enough, he speaks basic Chinese and Spanish, and he’s been working in the business since he was 18.
As Senior Vice President/COO, Doddy earned his B.A. degree in Comprehensive Business Management Education. He oversees finance and manufacturing accounts and focuses on overseas operations and has worked there since he was 19.
For the role of Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Rodd prepared well. He graduated with a B.S. in Business Management from Cal State—Northridge and began working for the business at age 18. He works with all the teams and managers at Abbyson Living.
Yavar overseas operations, human relations and the branding side of the business, which is extensive. Says Yavar, “We are a tight family, and I love my brothers very much. The reason all of this works is that we each have established specific roles and responsibilities, and we come together when needed and can function independently as well.” “Our corporate culture is very important,” Yavar explains. “We want to make sure we have a happy environment and we reward our employees, regarding them as part of our extended family.”
Some of the amenities available at Abbyson Living might have some folks from Google coming by to visit. They have a chef who cooks for all employees once a month, providing food and fellowship. The employee of the year is gifted with a trip to Hawaii, and there are electric massage chairs for the employees. Nice touch.
In 2012 Abbyson Living was named as one of Inc 500’s “America’s Fastest Growing Companies.” For the “Inside Job” position opening, the person hired would be making a six-figure salary, and Yavar said, “We wanted to make certain we had the right person to join our team.” Now, who wouldn’t want to work at Abbyson Living? Yet, the criteria are demanding and the standards are high to find the right person.
The premise of “Inside Job” is that the show producers review resumes and credentials to select three prospects as finalists, and the company supplies one corporate insider to work (unrevealed) alongside the potential candidates for a week. Yavar said, “This was a new process for us, a big risk but a big experience. We were hiring differently for the first time. Hundreds of applicants submitted resumes and the producers spent one to two days just discussing with us the requirements we had for the new hire.” They then spent weeks interviewing candidates and came up with the final three. “Internally, we spent time and interviewed six different employees for the role of the insider,” said Yavar.
There were two assignments for the team of four. An executive from Overstock.com participated along with the Abbyson team to judge the first project, the creation of a living room design in 90 minutes, which would ordinarily take two days. The second test was to create a 30-second product video of beautiful outdoor living furnishings for their exquisite website, a real test of pressure. The three Rafieha brothers dropped in unexpectedly on the team in the middle of that process, and then saw the finished product.
No scene spoilers here, so no spoiler alert. Two women and two men are the candidates who spend a week together and have to work together on the tasks. This really “is” a “must-see” episode because you’ve never seen such attempts by one at throwing others “under the bus” and by another at presuming a “condescending superiority” toward the others. It’s also just fun to watch because you see the lengths to which people will go and the heights towards which they will soar when under pressure, particularly revealing their true characters.
At the end of the two assignments, the person who is hired is chosen...by the insider, whose identity shocks all of the other three. No more commentary on the episode, lest the good news be revealed too soon. The winner is bright, talented, and entirely creative, plus experienced for the job. Yavar said, “This show was a wonderful experience for us and it’s changed the way we now hire our executives. We have adopted the elements of this process to test people in our environment to know how they’ll interact and perform in our corporate culture.”
If you didn’t see the original broadcast, you have a second chance to see it, at your convenience. Watch this tremendous story at TNT Drama’s online web site. See a company in action who really lives every element out its mission statement. The Rafieha brothers were inspired by their father to create a company, Abbyson Living, where they could supply furnishings of exceptional quality and unique beauty to retailers at a full range of price points, from affluent estates all the way to your first home. They even have a beautiful showroom in Las Vegas!
From a company initiated by a wise father, Abby Rafieha, who took his oldest son, Yavar, with him as he traveled the world to create a furniture business, the premise was like how many other “Father & Sons” dreams begin. Abbyson Living represents Yavar, Doddy and Rodd making their father’s unspoken dreams and wishes for his sons come true, when there was never any pressure in the first place to follow him there.
Ever had a dream job? One that you’d close your eyes and wished would be yours? Perhaps it was a place you’d heard of, but had never been to; maybe it was one where you had always wanted to work, but didn’t even know how to get your foot in the door.Suddenly, the skies opened and the chance of a lifetime fell out and you had a shot at the job of a lifetime.
That’s the premise of TNT’s new original series, “Inside Job,” and one of those company where dreams come true is Abbyson Living. After watching this episode, undoubtedly many people will visit the company website and click on “Employment Opportunities.”
The company is not called Rafieha & Sons. Instead, it is a loving tribute to their father—most appropriately named by Abby’s sons—Abbyson Living. Watch the episode and see it for yourself.